South Sudan atrocities may constitute war crimes, UN says

Women have often taken to the streets to demand an end to the violence

Horrific accounts of gang rape, throats being slit and mass shootings in South Sudan are described in the latest United Nations report on the country.

It blames the violence in Unity state on government and allied forces.

One woman, who said she lost everything told investigators that “it would have been better if they had killed me”.

Leaders signed a ceasefire deal in June aimed at ending the five-year civil war. Millions have been forced to flee as a result of the fighting.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed.

The violence detailed in the report may amount to war crimes and those responsible should be brought to justice, the UN’s human rights body says.

The UN investigators focussed on a five-week period in April and May when government soldiers and their allies attacked opposition-controlled villagesin the south of Unity state.

Map shoeing location of Unity state

The violence followed clashes between government and rebel forces, the report says.

In all 232 civilians were killed with “some hung from trees and others burned alive in their homes”, the report adds.

‘Raped while bleeding from labour’

A 14-year-old girl was quoted in the report as saying she would never forget the atrocities she had witnessed.

“How can I forget the sight of an old man whose throat was slit with a knife before being set on fire?” she said.

“How can I forget the smell of those decomposed bodies of old men and children pecked and eaten by birds? Those women that were hanged and died up in the tree?” the girl added.

The investigators found that about 120 girls and women were raped or gang-raped, and the victims included women who had recently given birth.

“I was still bleeding from labour, but one of the soldiers raped me. I kept quiet and did not resist as I saw other women being shot dead for refusing to have sex with the soldiers and youth,” a 20-year-old woman said.

South Sudan became independent in 2011. It has been wracked by civil war, which has seen ethnic cleansing and numerous atrocities, since 2013.

It began when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar, accusing him of planning a coup – an allegation he denied.

Several attempts to find a peaceful solution have failed.

The latest agreement, signed in June in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, saw the two leaders agree to a ceasefire, but they have yet to agree on a full-blown peace deal.



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